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As the Education Curator at a contemporary art museum, I can say that
presentation has something to do with the response of audiences to art. A
favorite part of our museum, in Honolulu, is the sculpture garden, with
several large scale, often humorous three-dimensional works displayed in a
beautiful garden setting. Teachers often comment that the museum is a
favorite visit for their kids. Perhaps some of the interest comes from the
nature of the work, which is often quite accessible to young people.
To help solve the problem of boring visits, teachers/parents can go a long
way by limiting exposure and focusing with the kids so that they have a
chance to begin to see all of the exciting objects before their eyes. I
personally hate shopping for clothes because I become overwhelmed by the many
choices after a while. And it's the same with art. Each work of art is a
world unto inself and it's important to help viewers slow down and take the
time to look at an individual work.
At The Contemporary Museum, we help teachers develop lessons and activities
to help them visit the museum and individual exhibitions in ways that excite
the eyes of their students and engage their minds. Integrating hands-on
activities helps as well. In the past year, we've had high school English,
Physics and Social Studies classes, the entire seventh grade of two schools,
and elementary literature, science and math classes, in addition to the art
students. Museums are such a wonderful resource!
A very simple exercise to do with kids at an art museum is to have them
choose one work they like or dislike, name and describe the work, and explain
why they like or dislike the work. Then have the kids pair up and talk about
their choices (or talk in the large group). I've seen this exercise work
successfully with elementary age kids through college students.
Louise K. Lanzilotti
The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu